GMU Observatory featured in video

Professor Harold Geller explains the GMU Observatory‘s current projects, the capabilities of the telescope, and how to obtain valuable data using an urban telescope.

Evening Under the Stars: Feathered Dinosaurs

Tuesday, 7 May 2013: 1st talk at 7PM, same talk at 7:45PM, observing starts at 7:30PM until 9PM. Meet in the lobby of Research Hall.

Just keep an eye out for weather – the event may be postponed or cancelled due to bad conditions – updates will be available here.

TAEM interview with Dr. Harold A. Geller of GMU

From the TAEM digest December 2012 Issue

TAEM- We recently had the pleasure of a guided tour of the telescope observatory at George Mason University by Dr. Harold A. Geller, the observatory’s director. We decided to learn a little more about him and were astonished about what we uncovered. Harold, please shed some light on your educational background and its long standing connection with George Mason University.

HG- The academic path to my doctorate was anything but straight.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, I returned to academia as a graduate student at George Mason University (GMU).  At that time, GMU was a medium sized liberal arts commuter-type college.  Not having a graduate degree program in my discipline interest, I designed my own program through the university’s master’s program in interdisciplinary studies.  I completed my master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in astronomy and informatics.  As I was working for a university consortium, I naturally maintained ties in higher education.  I applied for and received a Commonwealth Fellowship from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.  I initially sought to complete a PhD in Physical Sciences.  Ultimately, I switched to the doctoral program in education.  I also taught at the Northern Virginia …

New Observatory Telescope

New Observatory Telescope provides 4,500 pounds of education

It’s only a short elevator ride to the roof of Research Hall and the Astronomy Observatory, but Harold Geller fills the time with facts about the building’s construction, history of astronomy at Mason, and the excitement felt in the local community about the new thirty-two-inch diameter Ritchey-Chrétien telescope in the College of Science. The new scope is possibly the largest on-campus telescope of its kind at any university on the East Coast.

Geller, observatory director and associate professor in the School of Physics,Astronomy, and Computational Sciences, explains that this new telescope continues a tradition that started in 1975. Students back then firsthand-built a six-inch refractor telescope, then a twelve-inch reflector telescope. The university’s commitment to physics, astronomy, and computational sciences has grown since the 1970s. About twenty-five graduate students are currently enrolled in the astronomy program, and another 1,500 students take astronomy classes each year. “This is a professional-grade telescope,” says Geller. “It allows us to see as far into space as possible.

”The scope is mounted in the dome of the observatory and is controlled by three computers. One system displays a graphical user interface that takes the guesswork out of searching for objects in the sky. Geller explains that the 4,500-pound telescope can easily be positioned by typing in commands that have the …

Skymonitor Project Brings Dark Sky Issues to Light

by Tara Laskowski. Mason Spirit, April 20,2012

Many major telescopes around the world are located in densely populated areas. Even Mason’s telescope, installed last year, is situated in the heart of Northern Virginia and only miles from the nation’s capital. With so much population, infrastructure and business, one may wonder how even the most powerful of telescopes can compete with the light pollution generated by all this activity.

Enter the SKYMONITOR project. Mason has joined this international initiative that will help to track and map the brightness of the night sky around the world. Supported by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the National Science Foundation and the Vatican Observatory, the project will provide continuous, long-term measurements on the state of the night sky.

“There is an extended light-pollution problem as cities and suburbs grow,” says Harold Geller, associate professor in the School of Physics, Astronomy and Computational Sciences and Mason’s observatory director. “We are in a light-polluted area here in Northern Virginia, and it does affect what people can see in the night sky.”

Bob Parks, executive director of IDA, says that “sky glow” has interfered with astronomers’ jobs to such a large extent that …

Observatory History

Few people are aware of the fact that GMU had two astronomy observatories years ago. The first officially opened 6 October 1975. In fact, work on the first observatory began in 1972. The observatory was called the Herschel Observatory by the Department of Physics, but that name was not official. It was built by students (John Whalan, Chipper Peterson, and Bob Veenstra) under the supervision of Bill Lankford.

Menas Kafatos took over the supervision of the Herschel Observatory when he came to GMU in the fall of 1975. The location of the Herschel Observatory was the pig shed adjacent to the Mallory House, across Route 123 from the main campus. The pig shed was torn down to make way for the Field House, and a second observatory was built in the athletic fields. Unfortunately, this second observatory suffered vandalism, that ultimately lead to its demise by 1980. It was torn down within two years.

There have been plans for a new observatory for GMU ever since. Original plans were made to have an observatory on the top of Science and Technology I, Science and Technology II, and Academic IV (now known as Innovation Hall). In 1982 Geller circulated …

The Final Frontier

There is a good chance most George Mason University students will never see Jupiter as more than a distant light in the night sky, barely discernible from a star. Harold Geller, a professor in the astronomy department, is helping to change that.